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Tom Wright, owner of The Wright Stuff Records & Collectibles in downtown Woodstock.

As the holiday shopping season ramps up this weekend, beginning with Black Friday, Cherokee leaders and local business experts are urging citizens to participate in a now nationally recognized shopping holiday that boosts local economies.

Small Business Saturday, created in 2009 by financial services company American Express, is celebrated every year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving and was established as an awareness and incentive campaign to give small businesses more spotlight and a shot of adrenaline.

“It was first founded... in an effort to bring visibility to small businesses during what is historically a very busy time of the year for retailers in general. So taking place the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a great celebratory way to kick off the holiday season while also celebrating independent retailers for being a part of communities nationwide,” said Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, spokeswoman for Small Business Saturday and founder of Retail Minded at retailminded.com, a news, education and support outlet for retail businesses.

Leinbach Reyhle said Tuesday that, according to the American Express 2018 Small Business Saturday consumer insight survey, 97 percent of customers who plan to shop small said they recognize they have a positive effect on their community by doing so.

“So 97 percent of customers recognize the value of supporting businesses within their own community, and in fact, nine out of 10 customers believe that they need to support small businesses this holiday season. So it’s really becoming more and more recognized over the years,” she said.

But the shopping holiday, which has been officially recognized by the U.S. government and is being introduced this year in Puerto Rico, doesn’t just introduce customers to businesses in their community, Leinbach Reyhle said. The money spent on the day stays within the community. She said for every dollar spent, 44 cents “goes directly to that small business owner and employee wages and benefits,” and 23 percent of cash flow is “reinvested into other local businesses.” She also said that 96 percent of customers say they’re inspired to shop small because they recognize that unique shops and offerings exist minutes from home.

Cherokee leaders echoed that belief in interviews with the Tribune this week.

Pam Carnes, president and CEO of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, said she encourages Cherokee residents to shop small every year, because “supporting each other comes around full circle.” Carnes said those same businesses that small-shoppers will patronize give back to and volunteer in the community where they live and raise their families.

Cherokee County offers a variety of small business types inside cities as well as in unincorporated Cherokee, she said. Carnes said shopping list items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, home interior items, decorations and unique personal items can all be found in Cherokee shops, and locally-owned restaurants should be factored into the shopping day, too.

“When you choose to shop Cherokee, you choose to support Cherokee. This holiday season, your Chamber of Commerce challenges you to experience what Cherokee County has to offer and to make shopping locally a part of your year-round routine,” she said.

Misti Martin, president and CEO of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, added Tuesday that more than 90 percent of Cherokee businesses employ 20 or fewer people, making Small Business Saturday even more important to the county. Martin said, with the development of business and entrepreneurship programs at COED -- including Fresh Start Cherokee, One Million Cups and coworking spaces like The Circuit -- the county is ready for business growth and investment.

“Cherokee’s small businesses are generating jobs for our residents while giving Cherokee its own personality. One by one, these jobs are changing lives and creating sources of income and wealth locally,” she said.

City officials in virtually every Cherokee city also encouraged shoppers to explore independent retailers in the county and the cities.

Stacy Brown, marketing director for Woodstock’s office of economic development, said Monday that the city’s visitors center would again be an “official neighborhood champion” for Small Business Saturday. Brown said the city has been handing out Shop Small merchandise around the downtown area and will offer chances to win prizes in exchange for receipts showing local purchases.

For every $10 spent at a shop or restaurant that day, shoppers get one entry to win a $100 Downtown Dollars gift certificate. You can enter between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. (on Saturday),” she said. The Woodstock Visitors Center is located at 8588 Main St. For more information, visit the Small Business Saturday in Downtown Woodstock event page on Facebook.

Other cities are also encouraging people to shop small, whether or not the city is officially participating in the shopping holiday.

Holly Springs Main Street Director Erin Honea said that even though the city’s businesses are mostly service-oriented and Holly Springs does not actively participate in the events, city officials encourage local shopping, “whether it be in Holly Springs, in another municipality or in the county at-large.”

We understand that many of the small businesses in Cherokee County, as well as Holly Springs, are owned and operated by our friends and neighbors, and we believe it is important for residents to keep their dollars local when they are able,” Honea said.

Ball Ground City Manager Eric Wilmarth said Wednesday that the city won’t have “an organized participation” in Small Business Saturday. But, he said, the city encourages shoppers to come to Ball Ground, “because it is different.”

“You can truly find something in our walkable downtown for anyone on your Christmas gift list, even you four legged companions.  What makes it an even better experience is that we have so many great places to grab a bite to eat while taking a break from shopping, and you never need to move your car to make it happen,” Wilmarth said. “We strongly encourage supporting our small businesses.  Small business money stays in Ball Ground and in Cherokee County. Our merchants live here, build houses here, send their kids to school here, support local organizations with their time and with their dollars.”

Canton officials said Monday that the city has been running a “Shop Small this season” campaign, and that stores around the city will have deals and sales to take advantage of.

City officials in Waleska said there would be no business participation in the shopping holiday.

For more information on Small Business Saturday, to find participating merchants or for business owners looking for event and activity ideas, visit shopsmall.com.

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